I find it amusing that my last post, exactly 9 months and 1 day ago, was about burnout. That’s before we knew what would happen just 8 weeks later, when we’d all go into a collective (and very dull) sweat lodge to rediscover ourselves by immersion in the ordinary. Which, as it turns out, also leads to burnout. Who would have guessed.
And not unexpectedly, in that interim, WordPress changed Gutenberg again and the editor is unrecognizable. I wish developers would stop making slick UIs that make it difficult to get tasks done, or that surprise unwitting users with an unplanned for cognitive load, without great up front preparation and expectation setting. (I’ll probably end up loving the new interface. Give me until Saturday.)
What’s been going on all this time? Two main things! First, my newest book came out from ASQ Quality Press: Connected, Intelligent, Automated: The Definitive Guide to Digital Transformation with Quality 4.0. It’s great for anyone who wants to get a really good, deep-in-the-bones feel for what digital transformation really means, along with its pals AI and Machine Learning, and how to make it happen in a way that will benefit the business. (Have a business person who works in tech on your holiday shopping list who throws around a lot of buzzwords? Do you want to cure them? This would make a great gift.)
The second thing is that I joined Ultranauts, an early stage professional services startup that provides quality assurance and quality engineering via functional, manual and accessibility testing; software test automation; and data quality engineering. We’re unique because over 75% of the workforce is autistic or otherwise neurodivergent… and unlike other similar companies or “autism at work” initiatives, we just focus on creating an individualized work environment where everyone can thrive. (Sounds like something that would be great in any company, right? Exactly… that’s what we’re working on.)
I’m still not out of the pandemic fog. In fact, it’s been so thick since maybe July that I haven’t been able to focus on anything but work and related obligations, and sleeping (so apologies to anyone whose messages I’ve missed; I’ve been firing on fumes). Since I started this blog 11 or 12 years ago, I’ve rarely missed a month on the board… posting is enjoyable to me, and a great way to make sure fleeting thoughts don’t completely fleet away. So here’s to the fog lifting, the posts starting to flow again, and a new life pattern emerging.
Preferably one that includes traveling to other countries. And trains.
I read well over a hundred books a year, and review many for Quality Management Journaland Software Quality Professional. Today, I’d like to bring you my TOP 10 PICKS out of all the books I read in 2019. First, let me affirm that I loved all of these books — it was really difficult to rank them. The criteria I used were:
Is the topic related to quality or improvement? The book had to focus on making people, process, or technology better in some way. (So even though Greg Satell’s Cascades provided an amazing treatment of how to start movements, which is helpful for innovation, it wasn’t as closely related to the themes of quality and improvement I was targeting.)
Did the book have an impact on me? In particular, did it transform my thinking in some way?
Finally, how big is the audience that would be interested in this book? (Although some of my picks are amazing for niche audiences, they will be less amazing for people who are not part of that group; they were ranked lower.)
Did I read it in 2019? (Unfortunately, several amazing books I read at the end of 2018 like Siva Vaidhyanathan’s Antisocial Media.)
The biggest obstacle in agile transformation is getting teams to internalize the core values, and apply them as a matter of habit. This is why you see so many organizations do “fake agile” — do things like introduce daily stand-ups, declare themselves agile, and wonder why the success isn’t pouring in. Scott goes back to the first principles of the Agile Manifesto from 2001 to help leaders and teams become genuinely agile.
#9 – Risk-Based Thinking (Muschara)
Muschara, T. (2018). Risk-Based Thinking: Managing the Uncertainty of Human Error in Operations. Routledge/Taylor & Francis: Oxon and New York. 287 pages.
Risk-based thinking is one of the key tenets of ISO 9001:2015, which became the authoritative version in September 2018. Although clause 8.5.3 from ISO 9001:2008 indirectly mentioned risk, it was not a driver for identifying and executing preventive actions. The new emphasis on risk depends upon the organizational context (clause 4.1) and the needs and expectations of “interested parties” or stakeholders (clause 4.2).
Unfortunately, the ISO 9001 revision does not provide guidance for how to incorporate risk-based thinking into operations, which is where Muschara’s new book fills the gap. It’s detailed and complex, but practical (and includes immediately actionable elements) throughout. For anyone struggling with the new focus of ISO 9001:2015, this book will help you bring theory into practice.
#8 – The Successful Software Manager (Fung)
Fung, H. (2019). The Successful Software Manager. Packt Publishing, Birmingham UK, 433 pp.
There lots of books on the market that provide technical guidance to software engineers and quality assurance specialists, but little information to help them figure out how (and whether) to make the transition from developer to manager. Herman Fung’s new release fills this gap in a complete, methodical, and inspiring way. This book will benefit any developer or technical specialist who wants to know what software management entails and how they can adapt to this role effectively. It’s the book I wish I had 20 years ago.
#7 – New Power (Heimans & Timms)
Heiman, J. & Timms, H. (2018). New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World – and How to Make it Work For You. Doubleday, New York, 325 pp.
As we change technology, the technology changes us. This book is an engaging treatise on how to navigate the power dynamics of our social media-infused world. It provides insight on how to use, and think in terms of, “platform culture”.
#6 – A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession (Maldonado)
Maldonado, J. (2019). A Practical Guide to the Safety Profession: The Relentless Pursuit (CRC Focus). CRC Press: Taylor & Francis, Boca Raton FL, 154 pp.
One of the best ways to learn about a role or responsibility is to hear stories from people who have previously served in those roles. With that in mind, if you’re looking for a way to help make safety management “real” — or to help new safety managers in your organization quickly and easily focus on the most important elements of the job — this book should be your go-to reference. In contrast with other books that focus on the interrelated concepts in quality, safety, and environmental management, this book gets the reader engaged by presenting one key story per chapter. Each story takes an honest, revealing look at safety. This book is short, sweet, and high-impact for those who need a quick introduction to the life of an occupational health and safety manager.
# 5 – Data Quality (Mahanti)
Mahanti, R. (2018). Data Quality: Dimensions, Measurement, Strategy, Management and Governance. ASQ Quality Press, Milwaukee WI, 526 pp.
I can now confidently say — if you need a book on data quality, you only need ONE book on data quality. Mahanti, who is one of the Associate Editors of Software Quality Professional, has done a masterful job compiling, organizing, and explaining all aspects of data quality. She takes a cross-industry perspective, producing a handbook that is applicable for solving quality challenges associated with any kind of data.
Throughout the book, examples and stories are emphasized. Explanations supplement most concepts and topics in a way that it is easy to relate your own challenges to the lessons within the book. In short, this is the best data quality book on the market, and will provide immediately actionable guidance for software engineers, development managers, senior leaders, and executives who want to improve their capabilities through data quality.
#4 – The Innovator’s Book (McKeown)
McKeown, M. (2020). The Innovator’s Book: Rules for Rebels, Mavericks and Innovators (Concise Advice). LID Publishing, 128 pp.
Want to inspire your teams to keep innovation at the front of their brains? If so, you need a coffee table book, and preferably one where the insights come from actual research. That’s what you’ve got with Max’s new book. (And yes, it’s “not published yet” — I got an early copy. Still meets my criteria for 2019 recommendations.)
#3 – The Seventh Level (Slavin)
Slavin, A. (2019). The Seventh Level: Transform Your Business Through Meaningful Engagement with Customer and Employees. Lioncrest Publishing, New York, 250 pp.
For starters, Amanda is a powerhouse who’s had some amazing marketing and branding successes early in her career. It makes sense, then, that she’s been able to encapsulate the lessons learned into this book that will help you achieve better customer engagement. How? By thinking about engagement in terms of different levels, from Disengagement to Literate Thinking. By helping your customers take smaller steps along this seven step path, you can make engagement a reality.
#2 – Principle Based Organizational Structure (Meyer)
Meyer, D. (2019). Principle-Based Organizational Structure: A Handbook to Help You Engineer Entrepreneurial Thinking and Teamwork into Organizations of Any Size. NDMA, 420 pp.
This is my odds-on impact favorite of the year. It takes all the best practices I’ve learned over the past two decades about designing an organization for laser focus on strategy execution — and packages them up into a step-by-step method for assessing and improving organizational design. This book can help you fix broken organizations… and most organizations are broken in some way.
#1 Story 10x (Margolis)
Margolis, M. (2019). Story 10x: Turn the Impossible Into the Inevitable. Storied, 208 pp.
You have great ideas, but nobody else can see what you see. Right?? Michael’s book will help you cut through the fog — build a story that connects with the right people at the right time. It’s not like those other “build a narrative” books — it’s like a concentrated power pellet, immediately actionable and compelling. This is my utility favorite of the year… and it changed the way I think about how I present my own ideas.
After refactoring my programming so that it was only about 10 lines of code, using 12 functions I wrote an loaded in via the source command, I went through all the steps in Part 1 of this blog post and Part 2 of this blog post to set up the R package infrastructure using testthis in RStudio. Then things started humming along with the rest of the setup:
> use_mit_license("Nicole Radziwill")
✔ Setting active project to 'D:/R/easyMTS'
✔ Setting License field in DESCRIPTION to 'MIT + file LICENSE'
✔ Writing 'LICENSE.md'
✔ Adding '^LICENSE\\.md$' to '.Rbuildignore'
✔ Writing 'LICENSE'
✔ Adding 'testthat' to Suggests field in DESCRIPTION
✔ Creating 'tests/testthat/'
✔ Writing 'tests/testthat.R'
● Call `use_test()` to initialize a basic test file and open it for editing.
✔ Adding 'knitr' to Suggests field in DESCRIPTION
✔ Setting VignetteBuilder field in DESCRIPTION to 'knitr'
✔ Adding 'inst/doc' to '.gitignore'
✔ Creating 'vignettes/'
✔ Adding '*.html', '*.R' to 'vignettes/.gitignore'
✔ Adding 'rmarkdown' to Suggests field in DESCRIPTION
✔ Writing 'vignettes/easyMTS.Rmd'
● Modify 'vignettes/easyMTS.Rmd'
✔ Creating 'inst/'
✔ Writing 'inst/CITATION'
● Modify 'inst/CITATION'
Add Your Dependencies
✔ Adding 'ggplot2' to Imports field in DESCRIPTION
● Refer to functions with `ggplot2::fun()`
✔ Adding 'dplyr' to Imports field in DESCRIPTION
● Refer to functions with `dplyr::fun()`
✔ Adding 'magrittr' to Imports field in DESCRIPTION
● Refer to functions with `magrittr::fun()`
✔ Adding 'tidyr' to Imports field in DESCRIPTION
● Refer to functions with `tidyr::fun()`
✔ Adding 'MASS' to Imports field in DESCRIPTION
● Refer to functions with `MASS::fun()`
✔ Adding 'qualityTools' to Imports field in DESCRIPTION
● Refer to functions with `qualityTools::fun()`
Registered S3 method overwritten by 'xts':
Registered S3 method overwritten by 'quantmod':
✔ Adding 'highcharter' to Imports field in DESCRIPTION
● Refer to functions with `highcharter::fun()`
✔ Adding 'cowplot' to Imports field in DESCRIPTION
● Refer to functions with `cowplot::fun()`
Adding Data to the Package
I want to include two files, one data frame containing 50 observations of a healthy group with 5 predictors each, and another data frame containing 15 observations from an abnormal or unhealthy group (also with 5 predictors). I made sure the two CSV files I wanted to add to the package were in my working directory first by using dir().
✔ Creating 'data-raw/'
✔ Adding '^data-raw$' to '.Rbuildignore'
✔ Writing 'data-raw/DATASET.R'
● Modify 'data-raw/DATASET.R'
● Finish the data preparation script in 'data-raw/DATASET.R'
● Use `usethis::use_data()` to add prepared data to package
> mtsdata1 <- read.csv("MTS-Abnormal.csv") %>% mutate(abnormal=1)
✔ Creating 'data/'
✔ Saving 'mtsdata1' to 'data/mtsdata1.rda'
> mtsdata2 <- read.csv("MTS-Normal.csv") %>% mutate(normal=1)
✔ Saving 'mtsdata2' to 'data/mtsdata2.rda'
Magically, this added my two files (in .rds format) into my /data directory. (Now, though, I don’t know why the /data-raw directory is there… maybe we’ll figure that out later.) I decided it was time to commit these to my repository again:
Following the instruction above, I re-knit the README.Rmd and then it was possible to commit everything to Github again. At which point I ended up in a fistfight with git, again saved only by my software engineer partner who uses Github all the time:
I think it should be working. The next test will be if anyone can install this from github using devtools. Let me know if it works for you… it works for me locally, but you know how that goes. The next post will show you how to use it 🙂
Things were moving along just fine, until I got this unkind message (what do you mean NOT an R package???!! What have I been doing the past hour?)
Error: `use_testthat()` is designed to work with packages.
Project 'easyMTS' is not an R package.
> use_mit_license("Nicole Radziwill")
✔ Setting active project to 'D:/R/easyMTS'
Error: `use_mit_license()` is designed to work with packages.
Project 'easyMTS' is not an R package.
Making easyMTS a Real Package
I sent out a tweet hoping to find some guidance, because Stack Overflow and Google and the RStudio community were coming up blank. As soon as I did, I discovered this button in RStudio:
The first time I ran it, it complained that I needed Rtools, but that Rtools didn’t exist for version 3.6.1. I decided to try finding and installing Rtools anyway because what could I possibly lose. I went to my favorite CRAN repository and found a link for Rtools just under the link for the base install:
I’m on Windows 10, so this downloaded an .exe which I quickly right-clicked on to run… the installer did its thing, and I clicked “Finish”, assuming that all was well. Then I went back into RStudio and tried to do Build -> Clean and Rebuild… and here’s what happened:
IT WORKED!! (I think!!!)
It created a package (top right) and then loaded it into my RStudio session (bottom left)! It loaded the package name into the package console (bottom right)!
I feel like this is a huge accomplishment for now, so I’m going to move to Part 3 of my blog post. We’ll figure out how to close the gaps that I’ve invariably introduced by veering off-tutorial.
I have had package-o-phobia for years, and have skillfully resisted learning how to build a new R package. However, I do have a huge collection of scripts on my hard drive with functions in them, and I keep a bunch of useful functions up on Github so anyone who wants can source and use them. I source them myself! So, really, there’s no reason to package them up and (god forbid) submit them to CRAN. I’m doing fine without packages!
Reality check: NO. As I’ve been told by so many people, if you have functions you use a lot, you should write a package. You don’t even have to think about a package as something you write so that other people can use. It is perfectly fine to write a package for an audience of one — YOU.
But I kept making excuses for myself until very recently, when I couldn’t find a package to do something I needed to do, and all the other packages were either not getting the same answers as in book examples OR they were too difficult to use. It was time.
So armed with moral support and some exciting code, I began the journey of a thousand miles with the first step, guided by Tomas Westlake and Emil Hvitfeldt and of course Hadley. I already had some of the packages I needed, but did not have the most magical one of all, usethis:
First, I checked to see if the package name I wanted was available. It was not available on CRAN, which was sad:
Urban Dictionary can contain potentially offensive results,
should they be included? [Y]es / [N]o:
-- MTS -------------------------------------------------------------------------
Name valid: ✔
Available on CRAN: ✖
Available on Bioconductor: ✔
Available on GitHub: ✖
My second package name was available though, and I think it’s even better. I’ve written code to easily create and evaluate diagnostic algorithms using the Mahalanobis-Taguchi System (MTS), so my target package name is easyMTS:
-- easyMTS ------------------------------------------------------------
Name valid: ✔
Available on CRAN: ✔
Available on Bioconductor: ✔
Available on GitHub: ✔
Create Minimum Viable Package
Next, I set up the directory structure locally. Another RStudio session started up on its own; I’m hoping this is OK.
✔ Creating 'D:/R/easyMTS/'
✔ Setting active project to 'D:/R/easyMTS'
✔ Creating 'R/'
✔ Writing 'DESCRIPTION'
Title: What the Package Does (One Line, Title Case)
* First Last <firstname.lastname@example.org> [aut, cre] (<https://orcid.org/YOUR-ORCID-ID>)
Description: What the package does (one paragraph).
License: What license it uses
✔ Writing 'NAMESPACE'
✔ Writing 'easyMTS.Rproj'
✔ Adding '.Rproj.user' to '.gitignore'
✔ Adding '^easyMTS\\.Rproj$', '^\\.Rproj\\.user$' to '.Rbuildignore'
✔ Opening 'D:/R/easyMTS/' in new RStudio session
✔ Setting active project to '<no active project>'
This took me to a page on Github where I entered my password, and then had to go down to the bottom of the page to click on the green button that said “Generate Token.” They said I would never be able to see it again, so I gmailed it to myself for easy searchability. Next, I put this token where it is supposed to be locally:
A blank file popped up in RStudio, and I added this line, then saved the file to its default location (not my real token):
Then I had to restart R and confirm it worked:
This revealed my token! I must have done the Github setup right. Finally I could proceed with the rest of the git setup:
✔ Setting active project to 'D:/R/easyMTS'
Error: Cannot detect that project is already a Git repository.
Do you need to run `use_git()`?
✔ Initialising Git repo
✔ Adding '.Rhistory', '.RData' to '.gitignore'
There are 5 uncommitted files:
Is it ok to commit them?
3: Not now
Enter an item from the menu, or 0 to exit
✔ Adding files
✔ Commit with message 'Initial commit'
● A restart of RStudio is required to activate the Git pane
1: No way
2: For sure
When I tried to commit to Github, it was asking me if the description was OK, but it was NOT. Every time I said no, it kicked me out. Turns out it wanted me to go directly into the DESCRIPTION file and edit it, so I did. I used Notepad because this was crashing RStudio. But this caused a new problem:
Error: Uncommited changes. Please commit to git before continuing.
This is the part of the exercise where it’s great to be living with a software engineer who uses git and Github all the time. He pointed me to a tiny little tab that said “Terminal” in the bottom left corner of RStudio, just to the right of “Console”. He told me to type this, which unstuck me:
THEN, when I went back to the Console, it all worked:
✔ Checking that current branch is 'master'
Which git protocol to use? (enter 0 to exit)
1: ssh <-- presumes that you have set up ssh keys
2: https <-- choose this if you don't have ssh keys (or don't know if you do)
● Tip: To suppress this menu in future, put
`options(usethis.protocol = "https")`
in your script or in a user- or project-level startup file, '.Rprofile'.
Call `usethis::edit_r_profile()` to open it for editing.
● Check title and description
Are title and description ok?
✔ Creating GitHub repository
✔ Setting remote 'origin' to 'https://github.com/NicoleRadziwill/easyMTS.git'
✔ Pushing 'master' branch to GitHub and setting remote tracking branch
✔ Opening URL 'https://github.com/NicoleRadziwill/easyMTS'
This post is getting long, so I’ll split it into parts. See you in Part 2.
Over the past few years, Agile has gained popularity. This methodology emerged as a solution to manage projects with a number of unknown elements and to counter the typical waterfall method. Quality practitioners have observed the numerous similarities between this new framework and Lean. Some have speculated that Agile is simply the next generation’s version of Lean. These observations have posed the question: Is Agile the new Lean?
ASQ Influential Voices Roundtable for December 2019
The short answer to this question is: NO.
The longer answer is one I’m going to have to hold back some emotions to answer. Why? I have two reasons.
Reason #1: There is No Magic Bullet
First, many managers are on a quest for the silver bullet — a methodology or a tool that they can implement on Monday, and reap benefits no later than Friday. Neither lean nor agile can make this happen. But it’s not uncommon to see organizations try this approach. A workgroup will set up a Kanban board or start doing daily stand-up meetings, and then talk about how they’re “doing agile.” Now that agile is in place, these teams have no reason to go any further.
Reason #2: There is Nothing New Under the Sun
Neither approach is “new” and neither is going away. Lean principles have been around since Toyota pioneered its production system in the 1960s and 1970s. The methods prioritized value and flow, with attention to reducing all types of waste everywhere in the organization. Agile emerged in the 1990s for software development, as a response to waterfall methods that couldn’t respond effectively to changes in customer requirements.
Agile modeling uses some lean principles: for example, why spend hours documenting flow charts in Visio, when you can just write one on a whiteboard, take a photo, and paste it into your documentation? Agile doesn’t have to be perfectly lean, though. It’s acceptable to introduce elements that might seem like waste into processes, as long as you maintain your ability to quickly respond to new information and changes required by customers. (For example, maybe you need to touch base with your customers several times a week. This extra time and effort is OK in agile if it helps you achieve your customer-facing goals.)
Both lean and agile are practices. They
require discipline, time, and monitoring. Teams must continually hone their
practice, and learn about each other as they learn together. There are no magic
Information plays a key role. Effective flow of information from strategy to action is important for lean because confusion (or incomplete communication) and forms of waste. Agile also emphasizes high-value information flows, but for slightly different purposes — that include promoting:
Rapid, targeted, and effective action
The difference is easier to understand if you watch a couple cat videos.
This Cat is A G I L E
This cat is continuously scanning for information about its environment. It’s young and in shape, and it navigates its environment like a pro, whizzing from floor to ceiling. If it’s about to fall off something? No problem! This cat is A G I L E and can quickly adjust. It can easily achieve its goal of scaling any of the cat towers in this video. Agile is also about trying new things to quickly assess whether they will work. You’ll see this cat attempt to climb the wall with an open mind, and upon learning the ineffectiveness of the approach, abandoning that experiment.
This Cat is L E A N
This cat is using as LITTLE energy as possible to achieve its goal of hydration. Although this cat might be considered lazy, it is actually very intelligent, dynamically figuring out how to remove non-value-adding activity from its process at every moment. This cat is working smarter, not harder. This cat is L E A N.
Hope this has been helpful. Business posts definitely need more cat videos.
The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) concept has taken off over the past few years. Indeed, its heart is in the right place. MVP encourages product managers to scope features and functionality carefully so that customer needs are satisfied at every stage of development — not just in a sweeping finale at the end of development.
Unfortunately, adhering to MVP won’t guarantee success thanks to one critical caveat. And that is: if your product already exists, you have to consider your product’s base state. What can your customers do right now with your product? Failure to take this into consideration can be disastrous.
An Example: Your Web Site
Here’s what I mean: let’s say the product is your company’s web site. If you’re starting from scratch, a perfectly suitable MVP would be a splash page with one or two sentences about what you do. Maybe you’d add some contact information. Customers will be able to find you and communicate with you, and you’ll be providing greater value than without a web presence.
But if you already have a 5000-page site online, that solution is not going to fly. Customers and prospects returning to your site will wonder why it vaporized. If they’re relying on the content or functionality you previously provided, chances are they will not be happy. Confused, they may choose to go elsewhere.
The moral of the story is: in defining the scope of your MVP, take into consideration what your customers can already do, and don’t dare give them less in your next release.